Conference realignment makes another seismic shift

Conference realignment in college sports has been going on since 1984, when the Supreme Court invalidated the NCAA's national television contract for football.

The conference juggling has gone through ebbs and flows through the years since, from small schools bumping up to bigger leagues to power programs switching to other major conferences.

The latest move, Southern California and UCLA bolting the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, could be part of a tectonic shift. Not just because of the marquee schools involved, but because it happened at a time when the NCAA is looking to take a more decentralized approach to governing college athletics, handing more power to schools and conferences.

“You might think this is more seismic because it's involving wealthier schools — and arguably it is — but also it's seismic because of the underpinnings of the system, the foundations of the system, are being challenged at a time when the financial structure is exploding,” Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist said Friday. “It may have larger ramifications, but it is a process that's been ongoing.”